Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets of Budapest to protest against comments made by a far-right member of parliament. The Jobbik MP called for Jews to be screened to see if they were security risks.
The demonstration held in the heart of Hungary's capital was unique in the sense that bitter rivals from governing and opposition parties appeared on the same stage, united by their disgust at Marton Gyongyosi's comment, which they regard as anti-Semitic.
Following a parliamentary debate about the recent violence between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip, Gyongyosi said it would be prudent for the authorities to compile lists of Jews in Hungary who might pose a risk to national security. Gyongyosi later apologized, saying his remarks had been misunderstood, and that he had only been referring to government officials or members of parliament who held Israeli passports.
Gyongyosi's explanation, however, failed to convince his critics, for whom his words harkened back to the Nazi years, when at least 500,000 Hungarian Jews were killed in the Holocaust.
"We cannot allow things which belong to the darkest pages of history books to repeat themselves," the head of the parliamentary group of the ruling right-wing Fidesz party told the demonstrators who braved icy temperatures to attend the rally.
"We do not want to live together with such malicious racist comments which we heard from Marton Gyongyosi, lawmaker of Jobbik, on Monday in parliament," Antal Rogan added.
Former Prime Minister Gordon Bajnai of the Together 2014 alliance said Gyongyosi's comments were indicative of the true nature of the far-right Jobbik party.
"If we want a new era of normality in politics in Hungary then this is the number one moral order: one must team up with everyone against the Nazis, but must not team up with the Nazis not even for power," Bajnai said.
Jobbik responded to Sunday's rally with a statement in which it described the demonstration as an expression of "political alarmism," and dismissed it as an act of desperation by its opponents.
pfd/jr (Reuters, AFP, DAPD)